Where is Siberia in relation to Sweden, or How (not) to be a Siberian


Every time I say I am from Russia, they ask me: from Moscow?

Why? Of course I am NOT from Moscow!

I am from Novosibirsk, I used to say significantly. Expecting, in the hundred percent of cases, the expression of polite incomprehension on my interlocutor’s face. Expecting and dreading it.

Surpressing the sign of exasperation, I used to begin to explain. Where it is. Mentioning Siberia, expecting the expression of polite (sometimes fake) excitement. Wow! Siberia! Very cold.

When I asked if they knew what the third largest city in Russia is, no-one had a clue. (Lucky day if someone knows the second. Just kidding. Of course eveyone knows THAT.)

At some point (I think by then I was almost thirty), I decided on the following spiel:

No, I am not from Moscow. I come from Novosibirsk, the third largest city in Russia, situated in South-West Siberia, on the great Russian river Ob. It has about 1.5 million people, and it is an industrial and commercial city and a large transportation hub. It is an about four-hour flight from Moscow, and it is still not quite in the middle of Russia.

I actually say all that, in one breath.

(Well, I drop about the transportation hub, not to sound like too much of a nerd. And about the Ob, ’cause who cares.)

(But never about Moscow, ’cause that’s what everyone knows.)

Then I listen to everyone marvelling about the four hours and still not being in the middle of Russia. Asking about the temperatures (I have said so many times that we have a very, very hot summer that I actually believe it now). And in Northern Europe, expressing great surprise that it’s actually not that far north. Roughly like Copenhagen, which shocks the Swedes. Understandably, because how does it feel to suddenly find out you live NORTH of SIBERIA???? South-West Siberia. But still. Isn’t Siberia supposed to be north of everything? Even Sweden?



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